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Authorities Arrest Prominent Muslim Cleric

The Syrian security apparatus arrested a prominent cleric after he returned from Qatar where he was featured on an Arab satellite TV station, said the London-based Syrian Human Rights Committee in an October 25 in a statement posted on its website.

The organisation said that Abdulrahman al-Kuki was a guest on the October 20 episode of a programme called the “Opposite Direction” and broadcast by Al-Jazeera.

The show was about a recent controversy regarding the way the Islamic veil should be worn.

The committee said that security forces had searched the home of the cleric and confiscated his laptop.

It demanded his immediate release, asserting that the arrest was solely on the basis of his opinions and beliefs.

The website all4Syria said the same day that the reason behind the arrest of Kuki was that he criticised the Sheikh of the Azhar, considered to be one of the most prominent figures in Sunni Islam, during the programme.

The website quoted a source as saying that the Syrian minister for religious affairs, Muhammad Abdulsattar al-Sayed, had recently ordered clerics not to give interviews without his permission. It added that the minister was “not satisfied” with Kuki’s repeated appearances on Al-Jazeera TV.

It was not the first time that the authorities had arrested religious figures in Syria. In June, Dr Salah Keftaro, a leading cleric who heads the religious institution Abu al-Nour, was arrested and accused of having illegal relations with foreign parties in addition to practicing a profession without a licence and misappropriating public funds.

A month earlier, the prominent Syrian cleric, Sheikh Mahmoud Keftaro, was detained for 13 days by Syrian intelligence for allegedly establishing contacts with western embassies in Damascus.